New look for Melbourne and the AJIHL

The Red Wings and Blackhawks are no more, and before everyone scrambles in a hurry to read the latest NHL news, it’s not the mega clubs from North America.

The lesser known Red Wings and Blackhawks from the Australian Junior Ice Hockey League, have taken on a new look for season 2013/14.

With controversy surrounding the names of the two Melbourne based sides in the inaugural AJIHL season, Ice Hockey Victoria has moved to keep the NHL at bay, by renaming the two sides and starting both clubs as new entities in the league.

Melbourne Whalers and Melbourne Glaciers are the two names selected by IHV to participate in the upcoming AJIHL season, after seeking supporters feedback via social media, a list of five team names were added to a poll giving supporters the chance to vote on their favoured choice.

With these two names the Melbourne hockey community begins a new era in the AJIHL, an era which will showcase the history of the state. The Whalers name is a reflection of the Coat of Arms from the City of Melbourne, while the Glaciers name is derived from the first rink to be built in Australia, the Melbourne Glaciarium.

“Absolutely ecstatic, I couldn’t have asked for two better names to be honest that were picked,” said AJIHL Assistant Commissioner Bryant Maddocks.

“The two gentlemen, Wayne McBride and Andrew Kirkham, really stepped it up a notch. Going back into history of ice hockey in Victoria and coming up with some names like that, the results speak for themselves. The people like them, I have had dozens of phone calls and messages coming through with people over the moon with the choice of the names. Especially for the Glaciers, to take on the pride of the Glaciarium which was the first rink here in Melbourne in 1906.

“We still have people involved our IHV community now like Basil Hansen, who played at that rink, so we are really happy to carry that tradition on.”

While the Melbourne Glaciarium is a rink that many hockey fans through Melbourne can relate to, the Whalers name was somewhat of a surprise when first mentioned.

“And with the Melbourne Whalers, I didn’t even know Melbourne was founded on those four occupations. The dock hand, the whalers, sheep herders, so when we saw that, it was great. So we thought we could go with something like that, so we were happy to take those two names and run with those. The response we have had so far has been fantastic, we have even had people try and come up with mock designs for logos and everything.”

The new look logos and jerseys for the Melbourne teams are already in the process of being designed, and will be ready for first puck drop in the AJIHL.

“The logos and jerseys at the moment are being designed as we speak, so that we can get them manufactured obviously with cover shorts and socks to match in time for the start of the season.”

An interesting discussion when the announcement was made earlier in the week when IHV looked to the hockey community for suggestions on team names, was which history was allocated to which former team. The Red Wings or Blackhawks? Bryant Maddocks says it’s a difficult situation.

“The thing that we are doing in the AJIHL this year is we are trying to create new entities for Melbourne obviously, because with the Blackhawks and Red Wings, with the NHL not too happy about us using the teams like that we are trying to create a new history for the teams. The team that was the Blackhawks last year, are the Whalers this year. But there will be no past history carrying over, in regards to players who played on the Blackhawks are going to be playing on the Whalers.

“There is going to be complete new team selection this year, so people who played on the Blackhawks could end up playing on the Red Wings this year. And that’s something that all states are doing, something that all assistant commissioners agreed on.”

With so little information made available to the public regarding not only the two Melbourne based clubs, but the AJIHL as a competition, getting websites and social media for each team is something which has been in discussions, but not yet finalised.

“We are still in discussions on how we are going to do that, there has been talk about opening multiple Facebook pages for each team. In regards to that though, it’s finding someone who is willing to manage those and take the time out to do that for us. That’s in house and what we have been speaking about here, between myself and the coaches.

“On a whole Ice Hockey Australia website covers a little bit of it, I am not sure what future plans are with the IHA, if they are going to create a separate entity like they have for the AIHL and AWIHL as well. It’s something we would like to see, obviously the league is in it’s second year and we have still got a few things we are trying to get on top of, but I would like to see something like that happen this season or the next year.”

Part of the excitement leading up to the new season is the addition of two teams from Western Australia, with Ice Hockey WA joining the AJIHL and expanding the league allowing more junior hockey players to showcase their talents on a national level. With the increase in teams and the additional cost that goes along with traveling out to Perth, it was a decision which was risky but had ticked all the boxes for the AJIHL.

“That will be great and that will get another state involved,” continued Bryant Maddocks.

“Hopefully Adelaide might join on next year and who knows Queensland might decide to throw a team in as well. The bigger it gets the better it is for everyone.

“We have budgeted for it, the players who are on the road are paying a fair price in regards to last year. Their initial cost will cover them for all ice, all jerseys, all uniforms and all travel expenses. We haven’t seen too much of an influx, there won’t be as many trips to WA as there is to Sydney due to the cost and trying to keep it down. But if we can get more players in and more teams in the next year or two, you might see those costs go down. The more teams you have involved the more you can plan to have a round robin on a weekend.”

The AJIHL is still only in it’s development phase as a league, adding two new Western Australia teams and the renaming of the Melbourne based clubs adds to the excitement the national junior competition has in only it’s second year. With budgets and costing already having been established to include the new teams out west, it will continue to push the league into becoming a full national junior setup.

The most exciting aspect for me, is seeing more future AIHL stars hit the ice this off season.

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